Chatham, County Under 'High' Forest Fire Warning
Heat and lack of rain increase risk.
Heat and a lack of rain have made Chatham, along with the rest of Morris, Sussex and Somerset counties highly susceptible to forest fires, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The state has seen almost twice as many (873) fires in since Jan. 1 than in all of 2011 (465), the state Forest Fire Service said. The fires in 2012 have burned over 2,800 acres, compared to about 650 acres in 2011.
The state has placed the area at Stage No. 1 in fire restriction rating system, which means most outdoor fires are prohibited, unless the fire is located in a properly constructed ring. According to state regulations, such a ring must be constructed of steel, stone, brick, or concrete with a gravel or masonry base.
Agricultural open burning is still permitted.
"All fine dead fuels ignite readily and fires start easily from most causes," the Forest Fire Service said on its website. "Unattended brush and campfires are likely to escape. Fires spread rapidly and short-distance spotting is common. High-intensity burning may develop on slopes or in concentrations of fine fuels. Fires may become serious and their control difficult unless they are attacked successfully while small."